Our Experience with School Resource Officers 

During the 2022/23 school year, we provided support to parents, teachers, principals, and police officers throughout Canada and the United States in addressing social media concerns and dilemmas. These issues ranged from actual or potential criminal activities to worrisome behaviors that, while not criminal, posed significant safety risks to the entire school community. Often, school administrators, teachers, and counselors that we interacted with, openly acknowledged that the challenges they faced surpassed their ability to effectively manage an event without the involvement of law enforcement.

Based on our anecdotal experience, schools with dedicated school resource officers (SROs) have consistently demonstrated successful resolutions of issues we brought to their attention in a positive and restorative manner. In comparison, schools without a dedicated SRO program that we worked with faced greater challenges in achieving the same level of benefit for all parties involved.

In a recent school incident involving sextortion and cyberbullying, we had the privilege of working with an SRO who demonstrated a deep understanding of the issues and promptly and effectively resolved the situation by working jointly with the school admin team. However, when faced with a similar issue at another school lacking a dedicated SRO, we encountered difficulties in motivating the general patrol officer to act. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that this seems to be a common occurrence rather than an exception.

In the absence of a dedicated SRO, general patrol officers are tasked with addressing concerns raised by schools, parents, students, or ourselves. We have a lot of respect for these officers who are on the front lines taking calls from anyone and everyone. However, due to their other numerous responsibilities, they often lack the capacity to provide the same level of dedicated time and effort as an SRO. Furthermore, general patrol officers may not possess a deep understanding of the social dynamics within a school community, which can hinder their decision-making process. Plain and simple – the general patrol officer is not going to be as fully invested in a school community, where SROs will be!

SROs possess a unique understanding of the challenges encountered in schools. They approach these challenges not with an adversarial mindset, but rather with a collaborative approach. Additionally, SROs undergo a variety of specialized training to help them excel in their role. It is worth noting that some SROs even have prior experience as licensed teachers, having taught at schools before transitioning to a career in law enforcement. In fact, we know one such officer personally – shout out to Cst Mark Jenkins!

SROs possess a comprehensive understanding of the who, what, where, how, and why of incidents within a school due to their full integration and dedication to their assigned school community. Their commitment allows SROs to establish familiarity and build trust with students, staff, and even parents – helping them to deepen their comprehension of the emotional, psychological, physical, and social intricacies that influence the school environment in which they work.

SROs also help to humanize the law enforcement profession with students. In fact, it is not uncommon that SROs can even become mentors to some students who once feared the police.  Speaking from first-hand experience, Darren decided to become a police officer because of his interactions with the SROs he had in high school. 

Considering that it takes a community to raise our children, school resource officers (SROs) should be recognized as integral members of the community. SROs play a crucial role as valuable resources and support systems for students, families, and school staff. They offer guidance on legal matters, connect individuals with community services, and serve as liaisons between the school and law enforcement agencies. By doing so, SROs contribute to strengthening the overall support network within the school community.

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